What a year it’s been.
Though 2021 was not the summer Bike & Build had imagined, it was a time of growth and learning, as Bike & Build took on new and exciting forms.
While B&B had to cancel the cross country and regional trips for a second year in a row due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the staff and board remained confident that it was the right decision to make to protect the riders, build partners, and hosts. Faced with this reality, the staff sat down and started brainstorming.
How could B&B create programs that kept the organization’s spirit but on a much smaller scale, and without any threat of Covid infections? The result was the creation of 2 new programs – Community Rides and the Volunteer, Awareness, and Advocacy Program (VAAP).
Building off of the pilot run of the VAAP program in 2020, Bike & Build partnered with Community Rebuilds, a historic build partner, to run VAAP into 2021.
Community Rebuilds works to build energy efficient housing, provide education on sustainability, and improve the housing conditions of the workforce of Moab, UT through an affordable housing program.
4 VAAP participants each spent 8 weeks living in Moab, Utah building energy efficient, natural, affordable homes and advocating for natural building and affordable housing. They gained skills in volunteer management, basic construction, nonprofit operations, community building, and flexibility.
“Coming to Moab and working with an organization like Community Rebuilds has opened an array of what is out there for me to do. I feel connected to my community and am actively trying to find other ways I can contribute to them. I have learned so much about tools and building and it has transformed how I view my capabilities and work ethic. I would not have known any other way to leave Philly and build myself if it weren’t for my Bike & Build VAAP experience.” – Victoria, VAAP ‘21 Participant
From May through September, Bike & Build ran 7 Community Rides in cities across the country. Each ride was led by two leaders from within the community (many being B&B alums), who worked to coordinate ride logistics, create partnerships, and assist in recruitment. Coordinators developed a 10-15 mile bike route in each city that visited 2-3 affordable housing partners. These partners were all nonprofit or public organizations working to create or advocate for affordable housing in those communities.
Just like on our bike trips, our partners ranged from national organizations like Habitat for Humanity to grassroots organizations working within tight knit communities.
In summer 2021, over 75 people participated in Community Rides in Chicago, New York City, Knoxville, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Minneapolis and meet with over a dozen affordable housing partners on their routes. Our Community Rides turned out to be the perfect way to engage folks from outside our typical demographics – we attracted participants who were outside of our age range for cross country, and those who don’t have the ability to take an entire summer to do a trip with us. These folks were able to delve into affordable housing on a very local level, exploring and learning about what is happening in their community and how they can get involved.
If you missed a Community Ride this summer, don’t worry – they’re here to stay! We are currently working on incorporating Community Rides into our cross country programming, as well as adding them as spring and fall offerings in cities across the U.S.
2020 and 2021 were challenging years for us as a small nonprofit, but were some of the strongest years for growth we’ve had in a long time. With our trips cancelled, we were forced to take a pause (something we often don’t have much time for in our cyclical trip calendars) and were able to devote time to not only expanding our programming, but taking a deep dive into who we are and how we operate Bike & Build.
We created new programs – some worked really well and some fell short of our goals. We listened to our alumni, to our community, and saw that we were not living up to the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion goals that have so long been written in our strategic plans. We created committees and working groups, worked with consultants, and spent time examining how to create more diversity within Bike & Build, and how to make it a more inclusive space for all who join.
In 2022, we’re thrilled to bring back our bread and butter programming – we’ve got 3 cross country trips, a Drift West trip and a few week long trips. If you’d like to support us as we gear up for next summer, please consider donating to our Annual Drivetrain Campaign. These funds will go towards supporting everything from providing food to our hungry riders, to renting support vehicles for each trip, to training our trip leaders. And if you know a young adult who’s itching for the adventure of a lifetime, tell them to apply for Bike & Build today!